The first part is to do your research, know what requirements the schools have, as well as the type of students they accept. I did this by spending lots of time on individual school websites as well as AACOM and AMCAS. I talked to my undergraduate advisor and other students. I had a bit of a challenge initially since I am not a traditional student, I didn't know many others going through the process. I was initially ready to apply during the spring of 2009. I had all of the requirements complete and was waiting for my MCAT result. The one part that I had not yet researched was my heart, and between some family events and my place in life, I realized that I was not quite ready to apply.
I decided to wait a year and apply in 2010. That year was not spent waiting at all. Besides college, it has been my busiest year yet. I am volunteering with a gluten intolerance group, something that I feel very strongly about. I am working full time and I found a way to shadow and meet several physicians. Also in that year, I retook the MCAT. Sometimes all of these activities led to 14+ hour days filled with writing volunteer emails on my work breaks. It was exhausting, but very fulfilling! I learned more than I though possible about the world and about myself. I have grown more confident and more ready than ever for the next step of medical school.
A couple notes of advice for those who are approaching these steps.
- Know who you are and what you are passionate about, you will need to explain this over and over to many different people.
- Observe proper etiquette - always. Send thank you notes to pretty much every person who helps you. Be respectful to everyone. For example, MA's can be a good ally if you spend much time in a physicians office. Be especially careful during interviews, you never know who might be in your interview or might have a say (especially in small towns).
- Spend time on the details, but don't worry about the details. For example, edit edit edit all of your essays, especially the primary one. Make sure you have the correct schools name on the essay or paperwork that you are submitting. With so many secondaries, I was able to copy and paste a few paragraphs but had to really check to make sure it fit the school's prompt and didn't have a different schools name.
- Dressing for the interview is interesting. Wearing nice, professional clothes, it was hard to feel like myself. It was hard to choose something that fit my personality. I also had to learn about business professional dress, I had little idea of the details of it. As a biology major at an oregon school, learning business etiquette and dress was not covered. We were the ultimate future tree hugers anyways. As I enter the business"ey" world, I am realizing how important these detials are. I think it is an area that should be covered for all majors, we all enter the business world after college, no matter our major.
- Back to "don't worry about the details." I hear questions often of "how many activities did you list in your primary?" or "what exactly were the questions asked at this school?". First, there is no point to compare numbers, it is quality that counts and everyone is unique. Especially if you are "being yourself" through this process. For the questions, it was nice to have a general idea (espeically of the list 3 positives and 3 negatives of your personality). Beyond that I found that answering on the spot helped me answer most questions with an insightful answer.